Ray's Weekly Sports Electronics Mailbag

Hello, welcome to the Weekly Mailbag. I'm Ray, from DCRainmaker. com. If you've ever searched for reviews on sports technology - you've probably come across my site. I write about my triathlon/running training in general, along with sports technology and whatever else seems interesting to me. I started the Weekly Mailbag series earlier this spring as an opportunity to share some of the answers of the many e-mailed questions I get each week.

If you enjoy what you find here, then feel free to click the links to find even more in depth information on each topic. And if you have any questions, you can always e-mail me directly. Thanks for reading!

This week's mailbag covers the following topics:

1) How to secure Road ID to your Garmin Forerunner 305
2) LeMond Revolution Trainer and ANT+ Distance Tracking
3) Timex Global Trainer and Cadence-Only Sensor

Reader Trick#1: How to secure a Road ID to your Garmin Forerunner 305
From Cody Elder-

I wanted to share this tip from reader Cody Elder, who offers a way to secure a Road ID to your Garmin Forerunner 305. This is perhaps one of the more ingenious Garmin Forerunner tweaks/ideas I've seen yet. Given how important I think it is that every athlete - especially cyclists though - workout with a Road ID (or similar) tag, I love the concept of integrating it directly into the band. After all, out of all of the training gear I use daily (clothes, shoes, bikes, etc, ), there is really only constant: My Garmin Forerunner.

By integrating the Road ID into the unit - you've removed any ‘barrier to entry' with respect to remembering to take the Road ID with you. At left is what the final product looks like.

As you can see on the right, he's replaced the stock wrist strap with the Road ID one. And, because the Road ID strap is just a bit larger, it'll still allow you to charge the unit with the charging block.

Cody also has this all documented out in a video, photos and instructions on his blog - which I encourage you to check out for more details.

And you can bet I'm going to be suggesting that some of the major sports watch companies partner with companies like Road ID to offer such an option. In the same way that I can buy an iPod or Zune with engraving - I'd love to be able to buy a swappable Garmin Forerunner band (such as the quick release kit band) that I can have engraved with my emergency contact information. Perhaps there's a side market there as well.

And, since I happen to have a call with the Garmin engineering team later on today, you can bet it'll be on my list.

Question #2: LeMond Revolution Trainer and ANT+ Distance Tracking
From Brandon-

"I currently have a Garmin 310XT and am considering getting a Lemon Revolution Trainer XXXXfor winter training. How would your recommend I track my distance using the two?"

As you probably already know, the LeMond Revolution Trainer by itself can display distance (that you could write down afterwards) - but getting it to display on the Forerunner 310XT is an entirely different matter. While the LeMond is ANT+ compatible, it doesn't actually rebroadcast back out the ANT+ signals to the FR310XT. Meaning, the trainer uses ANT+ to communicate between the back trainer portion and the head unit - allowing it to internally calculate power (watts), speed, cadence and distance. But that calculation isn't done via open standards in a way that the 310XT (or similar) can read it.

This is because the device doesn't broadcast itself as a piece of ‘Fitness Equipment', like some of the other units out there. You may remember the piece I did on ANT+ enabled fitness equipment that can talk with products like the FR60 and the 310XT and display data from the trainer/equipment directly on the watch. Pretty cool stuff.

That said, I hit up the guys at LeMond and asked them for their thoughts. They said that due to the feedback they've received (which I know is in large part from the Slowtwitch crowd) that they're actively looking at something to bridge that gap - though they're still working on the usability aspects of where to place the device in the data stream (meaning: re-transmitting from the head unit, or the trainer unit). They didn't have any details or timelines to share yet other than they "see the light" and are "working on it".

Question #3: Timex Global Trainer and Cadence-Only Sensor
From Doug-

"Is there any way, using the Garmin speed/cadence sensor, but only using it for cadence , to have the watch calculate via GPS speed and distance? On my tadpole trike there is no way to get the speed sensor close to the wheel; so I'm getting a cadence count, but then the watch doesn't use the gps to calculate speed/distance."

Unfortunately, with the Garmin SPD/CAD sensor it's fully integrated as a unit, and from an ANT+ perspective the device profile includes both speed and cadence. This would be the case on any ANT+ device, including the Timex Global Trainer. However, there is hope!

About a year ago vendors started coming out with speed-only and cadence-only sensors, using new Speed only and Cadence only ANT+ device profiles. These unique sensors do either speed, or cadence - which can then be placed as appropriate around the bike. The Timex Global Trainer does support these speed-only and cadence-only sensors. In addition, most of the newer Garmin units also support these sensors, as well as just about every ANT+ enabled application released in the last 12-18 months.

This particular solution also solves the problem for recumbent bikes that may have distances to great to bridge using a traditional combined speed/cadence sensor. The most easily available unit right now is Bontrager's ANT+ sensor, which you can get more details on here via their site.

Recent Mailbags

Weekly Mailbag - November 2nd, 2010
- Effect of discontinuation on Garmin models
- Edge 800 availability
- Which workout logging software to use

Weekly Mailbag - October 23rd, 2010
- CompuTrainer and Tires
- ANT+ Gym Equipment
- 'Main 1 & 2' Data Pages on Garmin units

You can find all past Slowtwitch Mailbags here, and all prior ones here.

[Editor's note: our capable editor-at-large for electronics Ray Maker is the publisher of the online sports tech blog DC Rainmaker, one of the top-ranked sites by Google for extremely in-depth reviews of advanced GPS and Heart Rate Monitors for triathlon, cycling, and running.]